The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy –February 6, 2022

by Tony Wikrent

Strategic Political Economy

Mark Blyth – Asset Manager Capitalism

Mark Blythe [Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs, February 2, 2022, via YouTube]

TW: After an excellent overview of the economic work focused on inequality, and the emergence of the concept of Asset Manager Capitalism, Blythe explains how this new form of capitalism is focused entirely on preservation of wealth, at the expense of entrepreneurship and increasing productivity. Asset Manager Capitalism also locks society into Piketty’s model equation of returns to capital increasing at the expense of returns to labor. Blythe then explains the very important consequences for the fight to stop climate change: the financiers will finance a green New Deal Deal, but only if governments eliminate entirely any risk of loss to investors. This is where the Federal Reserve comes in. In Blythe’s words: “You can get a transition, but forget the ‘just” part.” 

Notice Blythe’s discussion of the slide “Who actually owns capital?” This annihilates the presently reigning model of shareholder capitalism. In 1945, USA households directly owned 94 percent of USA corporate shares. Today, just three asset management firms — Blackrock, State Street, and Vanguard — own 20 percent of every company in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, and control 80 percent of all exchange traded funds (ETFs). 

Alexander Hamilton’s proposal that no one should ever have more than 30 votes in a company, no matter how many shares they own, is an obvious solution to this problem. No wonder hardly anyone knows about this aspect of Hamilton’s work. Under Asset Manager Capitalism, shares in a company are no longer the means of providing investment capital, but rather have become assets to generate fees.


Credit Traders Lack Edge in Fed’s New Regime: The corporate bond market used to be the economy’s early warning signal. That’s no longer the case.

[Bloomberg, via The Big Picture 1-31-2022]

Citadel Securities: how the Wall Street outsider became ‘the Amazon of financial markets’ 

[Financial Times, via The Big Picture 1-31-2022]

Involved in more than 25 per cent of all US stock trades, and tipped to float, the company is the focus of SEC scrutiny

“America Is Facing a Great Talent Recession”

[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 2-4-2022]

“The deeper problem is that the talent model that has served America so well, especially since World War II, is breaking down. Korn Ferry, a human resources consultancy, warns that “the United States faces one of the most alarming talent crunches of any country” in its 20-country study. The institutions, practices and mind-set that enabled the U.S. to create a workforce capable of powering the world’s biggest and most dynamic economy are threatened by decay, disarray and disruption. And that is happening while China, a rival hostile power that poses an even greater challenge than the USSR once did, pulls ahead of it in world-defining technology. Once galvanized to action by the USSR’s launch of Sputnik, the U.S. now witnesses the equivalent of the launch of a dozen Sputniks from Beijing every year, with no corresponding response. In that respect, the Covid pandemic provides both a timely warning and a spur: a warning of what happens to a historically rumbustious economy when workers become scarce, and a spur to fixing America’s long-term talent and labor-supply problems while there is still time…. The country needs to add a new strand to educational reform: not just giving a helping hand to the poor or average performers but also identifying and nurturing the superstars who will help the U.S. beat back the challenge from Xi Jinping’s China.” • Yeah, that’s the trouble: Too much of a helping hand to the poor….

The Ticking Bomb of Crypto Fascism: The crypto market’s inevitable crash will pull America’s politics in an even scarier direction

[In These Times, January 4, 2022]

The foundation of everything happening now is a sort of late capitalist nihilistic politics fueled purely by culture wars — an almost primitive flight from rationality driven by a half century of rising inequality and crumbling faith in ineffective public institutions. The American dream is dead: Children no longer do reliably better than their parents. The dream of a one-income supported household is over. In its place have sprouted the gig economy, crushing student debt, the death of unions and generalized precarity. The rich are unimaginably richer, and everyone else is spinning their wheels. The Republican response has been the culture wars, in lieu of actually redistributing wealth. This has been effective, ironically, because the sort of healthy institutions that would prevent culture war politics from being so powerful are the very institutions that are withering away. Technological changes and the atomization of mainstream media have intensified our division into warring political camps, identity-based tribes that further radicalize electoral politics, and are in turn radicalized by it in a non-virtuous cycle.

The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

Neoliberalism Was Born in Chile. Now It Will Die There

Yves Smith, February 1, 2022 [Naked Capitalism]

Carolina Pérez Dattari, the Director of the Institute of Local Governments of the University of Recoleta. Originally published at openDemocracy

A constitutional convention is remaking Chile to break with the model forged by murderous dictator Augusto Pinochet

Money is power 

Cory Doctorow [Pluralistic, via Naked Capitalism 2-4-2022]

There is no objective perch on which an economist can stand and decide which tradeoffs are empirically best.

What’s more, any claim to about such a neutral test of economics is itself political: when economists assert that “Pareto optimal” is the same as “fair,” they’re saying that the people who lose in a Pareto optimal arrangement should lose.

This may strike you as incredibly obvious, but if so, you’re probably not an economist. The neoliberal economic project over the past 40 years has been to assert that an economic system that benefits the rich is also the fairest economic system, and that any attempt to intervene to produce a more even wealth distribution pollutes our economy with “politics.”

….Monopoly was converted to money, money to power, power to policy.

How America’s Supply Chains Got Railroaded

Matthew Jinoo Buck, February 4, 2022 [The American Prospect]

Rail deregulation led to consolidation, price-gouging, and a variant of just-in-time unloading that left no slack in the system.

…Union Pacific Railroad closed its Global 3 Intermodal Ramp outside of Chicago in 2019…. Two years later, as the supply chain crisis gripped the country, the railroad had to abruptly reopen Global 3 [but] couldn’t keep up with the volume, nor could Union Pacific find enough workers or equipment to handle the goods.  Industry analyst Larry Gross…  estimated that Union Pacific’s weeklong suspension of service would keep roughly 40,000 containers stranded on the West Coast.

Every other major railroad suffered from supply chain snags in 2021. Another overwhelmed rail company, BNSF, ordered a slowdown of shipments into its Chicago facility. …

But the freight railroads’ poor operational performance has not impaired their spectacular financial performance. If anything, the bottlenecks create more pricing power. Less than a week after his company reversed its 2019 decision and reopened Global 3, Union Pacific executive Rocker optimistically predicted on an earnings call that Union Pacific would be able to “take some pretty robust pricing on the market”—in other words, keep its prices high. The stock market shared Rocker’s optimism for all Class I railroads, whose stock prices rose in 2021, many by 20 percent or more….

Wall Street took notice of railroads’ growing market power and pushed them to implement PSR, which meant running faster, longer trains, and skimping on service, spare capacity, systemwide resilience, and safety. When Union Pacific closed Global 3, the railroad was implementing PSR.

Today, using PSR, railroad management’s job is to drive down the “operating ratio,” or operating expenses as a percentage of revenue. In other words, Wall Street judges railroads’ success based in part on spending less money running the railroad and more on stock buybacks or dividends….

In a September speech, STB Chairman Martin Oberman criticized railroads for their “pursuit of the almighty OR” and estimated that U.S. railroads have paid out $196 billion in stock buybacks or dividends to shareholders since 2010. In comparison, over that same period according to Oberman, railroads spent $150 billion actually maintaining the physical rail and equipment they need to run their railroad….

…Congress and the Carter administration deregulated the freight railroad industry with the Staggers Rail Act of 1980, which deregulated the railroad industry in at least two key ways. First, railroads did not have to submit rates, or prices, to the ICC anymore. Instead, they could enter into private contracts with shippers and give different shippers different deals, including volume rebates to big businesses. This reversed one of the original reforms of the Progressive Era. Economic historian Marc Levinson argues that railroads’ abilities to bargain and offer volume discounts to large retailers helped facilitate the growth of big-box retailers like Walmart, which could secure advantageous volume discounts, unlike smaller retailers.

We Were Warned About the Ports: A 2015 federal report predicted the entire slowdown that’s come to pass.

Alexander Sammon, February 3, 2022 [The American Prospect]

In July 2015, the Federal Maritime Commission, a federal agency with little name recognition and even less influence, released a report sounding the alarm about the state of America’s ports. A congestion crisis had been building for years and was fast becoming untenable; even the country’s relatively tepid economic-growth rate was straining against decades of disinvestment at its most critical trading hubs. Chassis weren’t available, trucks couldn’t get in or out, and terminals stayed perpetually clogged….

As the country’s most cynical economists and credulous news anchors would tell it, the breaking of the ports was the natural result of lavishing stimulus checks upon lower-income Americans, who nearly ruined Christmas with their indomitable desire for foldable furniture and Tickle Me Elmo. In reality, it’s the combination of some of the worst sins in economic policy: privatization, deregulation, cartelization, with some parasitic private equity sprinkled in too, all of which sacrificed resiliency, long-term planning, and even the country’s aptitude for economic growth in favor of corporate profits.

LIKE SO MANY OF THE COUNTRY’S late-breaking societal failures, the story of America’s modern ports began in the 1980s. First under the Reagan administration and later until Bill Clinton, the U.S. radically deregulated the ocean shipping industry. Out went the public-utility model, with prices overseen by a robust Federal Maritime Commission that helped offset that natural monopoly status that ruled the industry; in came the cartelized free-market system that has ruled ever since. (Incidentally, one of the early heads of the enervated FMC under Reagan was none other than Elaine Chao, the scion of a family shipping business, eventual wife of Mitch McConnell, and transportation secretary under Trump.)

Labor Fight Brews on the Docks: Negotiations loom between the dockworkers union and shipping companies making record profits.

Ella Fanger, February 3, 2022 [The American Prospect]

In December 2021, the top ten publicly listed shipping companies were on track to earn a record $115 billion in profits. Maersk, the world’s second-largest shipping company, posted its most profitable quarter in 117 years in November 2021. Now, this profit bonanza is the backdrop of upcoming labor negotiations between dockworkers and shipping companies. Negotiations are set to begin in early 2022 between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) over a new contract before the current one expires on July 1st.

How We Broke the Supply Chain: Rampant outsourcing, financialization, monopolization, deregulation, and just-in-time logistics are the culprits.

David Dayen, Rakeen Mabud, January 31, 2022 [The American Prospect]

TW: This reprises the material Dayen discussed in the podcast I linked to last week.

Want Affordable Housing? Strengthen Regional Governments.

Nathan Newman, February 4, 2022 [The American Prospect]

….rental and home prices continue to spike and new housing construction continues to lag the pace of decades ago. The national rental vacancy rate fell to 5.8 percent in the third quarter of 2021, the lowest level in four decades. The decade of the 2010s had less than half the new single-family housing starts per capita than any postwar decade. Multifamily housing starts are comparable to their levels in two previous decades, but they are still below earlier decades’ start rates, and far below what’s required to make up for the collapse in overall housing construction in the last ten years.

Supplier Goodwill toward OEMs Has Run Dry 

[IndustryWeek, via Naked Capitalism 2-4-2022]

The bottom line here is that OEMs don’t use reductions in material cost to lower the prices on their own products. The extra money goes directly to their bottom line. It is a fact that many suppliers reduce prices by reducing their own profitability. Instead of facilitating supplier “lean-ness,” in this case OEM leverage drives suppliers towards anorexia….

I was on site at one small supplier to a large OEM when, unexpectedly, a customer visited the supplier demanding an immediate price reduction of 15%, regardless of the contract that was in place, which defined pricing. After that meeting, I asked the supplier’s general manager how he had responded. He replied, “I had to accept it—they represent 80% of my annual revenues.”  I then asked how he expected to rebound from this—his actual profitability was already in the single digits—and he replied that he had no idea.

The record $1 trillion trade deficit doesn’t even count hundreds of millions of small packages mailed directly from China 

[MarketWatch, via Naked Capitalism 2-1-2022]

“Has The Farm Financial Picture Turned Dire? Ag Economy Barometer Reveals Reality of Input Price Pain for 2022”

[AgWeb, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 2-3-2022]

“Issues with input issues are evident in the latest Purdue University/CME Ag Economy Barometer. The January barometer fell 6 points, which marks the lowest reading since July 2020. The survey of 400 producers showed supply chain disruptions aren’t just causing angst, prompting producers to adjust their outlooks for the farm financial picture for 2022…. ‘The sharp drop in the financial performance index this month indicates producers expect a sharp decline in income in 2022 compared to 2021. In the December survey, producers were focused on comparing a very positive income year, 2021, to 2020, which really supported the index at year end,’ says Jim Mintert, the barometer’s principal investigator and director of Purdue University’s Center for Commercial Agriculture.”

In a Single Year, $1.78 Trillion Was Taken From the Working Class

[In These Times, January 31, 2022]

The wealth workers should have received, had wages kept up with productivity, was instead given to shareholders…. In 2017 alone, then, the average worker lost $17,385 — because wages have not kept up with productivity.

Disturbing New Report Shows Dire Conditions For Grocery Workers

[In These Times, January 11, 2022]

A huge new survey of Kroger employees finds homelessness, poverty, and food insecurity are widespread….

Among the survey’s findings:

– Fourteen percent of Kroger workers are now homeless, or have been within the past year. More than one-third say they fear being evicted. Even among full time employees, 15% say that they cannot pay their next rent or mortgage bill.

– The study’s authors calculated that a living wage for Kroger workers would be $22 an hour, working full time – about $46,000 per year. But only 35% of the workers surveyed work full time, and the average wage for a Kroger worker is less than $18 per hour, which amounts to less than $30,000 per year. Even workers who have been at Kroger more than 14 years do not make a living wage, averaging under $21 per hour.

What can Houston teach Los Angeles about solving homelessness? 

[Los Angeles Times, via Naked Capitalism 1-31-2022]

Predatory Finance

Get used to the Powell Ratchet

[Axios, via Naked Capitalism 2-4-2022]

The great LIBOR Divide 

[Clyde & Co, via The Big Picture 2-2-2022]

The findings of the US court of appeal suggest that, what was a massive crime in the UK leading to initial sentences of 14 years for Tom Hayes, was not a crime in the US.

“As Stocks Tumble, Wealthy Speculators Bid Up House Prices”

[Cory Doctorow, Medium, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 2-2-2022]

“Many asset bubbles are indirectly harmful — e.g. the climate consequences of crypto, or the way easy capital has spurred even more mergers and monopolization, with the attendant layoffs and worsening labor conditions. Asset inflation has also spurred investment in predatory enterprises like Uber and DoorDash, who use investor cash to subsidize a money-losing operation that strangles real, locally owned businesses. But there’s one asset bubble that has an immediate and direct harmful effect: the housing bubble. Since the Great Financial Crisis, Wall Street has been hell-bent on acquiring single-family homes, converting them to rental property, gouging on rent, skimping on maintenance, and evicting on the flimsiest pretense. By every metric, Wall Street investors are the worst landlords, and they’re the fastest-growing class of landlord. These two facts are related. Big firms are able to buy up so much housing because they are able to borrow cheaply, issuing bonds that “securitize” the rent payments from tenants. Access to this capital is dependent on the ability to raise rents and scare tenants into silence over dangerous living conditions. In other words, Wall Street firms can only corner the market on housing if they promise their investors that they’ll brutalize and beggar their tenants.”

“Bank of America Is Refusing to Forgive Some PPP Loans in Full, Giving Small Businesses Little Recourse”

[The Intercept, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 2-2-2022]

“One of the first forms of aid Congress offered to businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic was PPP loans, which were meant to be forgiven completely if used to cover payroll and other specified expenses. But in over a half-dozen interviews and emails with The Intercept, small business owners who got their PPP loans through Bank of America described the same experience: A year or more after they first received their loans, they were told that the bank determined they had originally received too much money and that it would only forgive a portion, leaving them to pay back the remainder with interest. Jose Ramos, owner of Kin-Keepers in Virginia, was told that none of his $67,500 PPP loan would be forgiven. Not all of the business owners have been able to determine why they are being denied full forgiveness; some say it has to do with whether the money could be used to pay contractors, and others say it has to do with whether they should have included health insurance costs in their applications. But all maintain that they followed the rules as they were written at the time they signed the promissory notes on their loans and shouldn’t be held accountable for the many rule changes the SBA made afterward. Bank of America, they point out, reviewed their applications and approved them for the original loans.”

Restoring balance to the economy

California has an answer for worker abuse in the fast-food industry 

(Los Angeles Times, via The Big Picture 2-4-2022]

The so-called Fast Recovery Act (the full name is the Fast Food Accountability and Standards Recovery Act) would create a fast-food industry council with the power to set statewide standards for wages, working hours, sick leave, training and working conditions applicable to the more than 550,000 fast-food workers in the state, the largest such workforce in the country.

Tracking inequality in real time — a powerful new tool from Berkeley economists

[Berkeley News, via Mike Norman Economics 2-1-2022]

UC Berkeley economists have launched a powerful new web tool that allows users to track, almost in real time, how economic growth and public policy affect the distribution of income and wealth among classes in the United States.
The website, Realtime Inequality, is an extension of the pioneering work done by Berkeley economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman that explores how law and policy in the U.S. and worldwide result in profound inequality in the distribution of economic resources.…

The pandemic

A Potential COVID Game-Changer: Progressives demand the U.S. share the Army’s promising new COVID vaccine with the world.
Walker Bragman, Andrew Perez, February 1, 2022 [The Daily Poster]

According to the Army, early research shows that the Spike Ferritin Nanoparticle (SpFn) vaccine, developed by scientists at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, can “provide broad protection” against COVID-19 and future variants. The SpFn vaccine must still undergo Phase 2 and 3 of human trials, but if it proves successful, distributing the new vaccine around the globe could be a game-changer in the fight against the COVID pandemic.

TW: Makes sense only if you really value human life and want to stop the pandemic. But if elites believe the old British empire’s malthusian “the world is overpopulated”? Then, Henry Kissinger’s December 1974 National Security Study Memorandum 200, Implications of Worldwide Population Growth For U.S. Security and Overseas Interests makes clear why the USA government would never share a miracle cure created with funding by USA taxpayers. 

Does the ‘Let it Rip’ approach have a eugenics problem? 

[Eureka Street, via Naked Capitalism 1-30-2022]

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 2-2-2022]


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 2-3-2022]


Climate and environmental crises

Expected global suitability of coffee, cashew and avocado due to climate change

[PLOS One, via Naked Capitalism 1-30-2022]

To Fight Climate Change, Bring Back State Planning

[New York Magazine, via The Daily Poster 1-30-2022]

Although clean-energy investments need to be significant to avert catastrophe — on the order of 1 to 2 percent of GDP at the conservative end — the results would very likely be anti-inflationary given the outsize role fossil fuels tend to play in driving the [Consumer Price Index]. Decarbonizing the power sector and retrofitting homes and buildings to run on that new grid, as Green New Deal proposals outline, would not just create millions of jobs but decouple life’s essentials from fossil-fuel price volatility. The same is true of large-scale investments in electrified transit that, besides slashing deadly air pollution and cutting down on traffic, would give many more people a less intimate connection to oil-market decisions made an ocean away.”

The Consequences Of A 500% Rally In Lithium Prices

[Oilprice, via Mike Norman Economics 2-1-2022]

Creating new economic potential – science and technology

In the World’s Fastest Drummer, Scientists See a Bionics Breakthrough

[Reasons To Be Cheerful, via The Big Picture 2-3-2022]

The same A.I. technology that runs Jason Barnes’ prosthetic arm can teach people how to read Braille or play the piano in a matter of hours.

Scientists Engineer New Material That Can Absorb and Release Enormous Amounts of Energy 

[PhysOrg, via Naked Capitalism 2-3-2022]

Information age dystopia

Inside Trickbot, Russia’s Notorious Ransomware Gang: Internal messages shed new light on the operators of one of the world’s biggest botnets.

[Wired, via The Big Picture 2-4-2022]

How a decades-old database became a hugely profitable dossier on the health of 270 million Americans 

[STAT, via Naked Capitalism 2-2-2022]

Health Care Crisis

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 2-4-2022]


The Dark History of Medicare Privatization

[American Prospect, via The Big Picture 1-30-2022]

Medicare Advantage was supposed to be a money-saver. It’s now become a costly, unaccountable cash cow for private insurance companies that is swallowing traditional Medicare….

Here’s a transcript of a taped conversation between Nixon and John Ehrlichman, his chief domestic-policy adviser.

Ehrlichman: “Edgar Kaiser is running his Permanente deal for profit … the reason he can do it … I had Edgar Kaiser come in … talk to me about this and I went into it in some depth. All the incentives are toward less medical care, because …”

President Nixon: [Unclear.]

Ehrlichman: “… the less care they give them, the more money they make.”

President Nixon: “Fine.”

Democrats’ political suicide

“Democrats snag redistricting wins”

[Axios, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 2-4-2022]

Lambert Strether avers, “This is a very good wrap-up, well worth a read.”

Biden Reversal Gives Wall Street A Big Win: The Democratic president slammed but now backs a Trump ruling that could help private equity kingpins loot retirees’ savings.

David Sirota, February 3, 2022 [The Daily Poster]

The dark side

The Anti-vaccine Right Brought Human Sacrifice to America

The Atlantic, via The Big Picture 1-30-2022]

Since last summer, the conservative campaign against vaccination has claimed thousands of lives for no ethically justifiable purpose…. for more than a year, we’ve had astoundingly effective vaccines that radically reduce the risk of hospitalization and death from COVID-19. All of which means that for a long time now the right’s ongoing propaganda campaign against and organized political resistance to vaccination, among other public-health protocols, has been killing many, many Americans for no reasonable, ethically justifiable social purpose. In other words, what we’ve experienced certainly since the middle of 2021 is literally ritual human sacrifice on a mass scale — the real thing, comparable to the innumerable ghastly historical versions….

But as I surveyed the anthropological literature, I was struck again and again by how well that scholarship describes the factors responsible for the thousands of deaths of Americans each month. Our current experience with COVID is filled with what historians of human sacrifice have identified as its key features. Let me run through the main ones.

The Big Lie’s lasting damage to American democracy

[Grid, via The Big Picture 1-30-2022]

House Republicans tout infrastructure funding they voted against 

[ABC News, via The Big Picture 1-30-2022]

Democrats have been quick to criticize it as “voting no and taking the dough.”

North Carolina Supreme Court strikes down redistricting maps CNN, via Naked Capitalism 2-5-2022]

“Trump’s Long Campaign to Steal the Presidency: A Timeline”

Ed Kilgore, New York Magazine, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 2-4-2022]

“The insurrection was a complex, years long plot, not a one-day event. And it isn’t over.” From the text: “There’s been a lot of media derision about Trump’s postpresidential efforts to wave the bloody shirt of the stolen election. It’s easy to assume the 45th president is just trying to stay in the news or stay relevant or give vent to his natural mood of narcissistic grievance and vengeance. However, the damage he is doing to the credibility of democratic institutions among Republican rank-and-file voters and conservative activists is not fading but is being compounded daily.” • This is the most useful article I’ve read on this story. There are a few problems with it.

Heather Cox Richardson, February 4, 2022 [Letters from an American]

The other big news today is that the Republican National Committee, meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah, censured Representatives Liz Cheney (R-WY) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) for joining the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol. Defending the events surrounding January 6, the RNC said that the investigation is “a Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse.”

That is, the Republican National Committee says that the January 6 attack on the Capitol—in which nine people died, more than 150 law enforcement officers were injured, offices were ransacked, and rioters spread feces on the walls—was “legitimate political discourse.”


But in the 1980s, Republicans argued that this system stifled economic development by hampering the ability of producers to put their money where they thought it would do the most good. Instead of supporting workers, they argued, government should cut taxes to enable those at the top of the economic ladder to accumulate capital and invest in the economy. Tax cuts became their go-to solution for any sort of economic crisis. The government should support the “supply side” of the economy. Any attempt to use the government to help the “demand side” was, they said, “socialism.”

Shortly after Biden took office, the Democrats returned to the old system. To address the economic wreckage left behind by the pandemic, Democrats in March 2021 passed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, without a single Republican vote. That measure is behind the extraordinary U.S. economic recovery, proving that, no matter what its supply-side opponents have alleged over the years, supporting the demand side of the economy works.

That the Republican Party has now retreated into the delusion that a deadly attack on our government was “legitimate political discourse” is also a product of 40 years of political rhetoric saying that those who oppose Republican policies are anti-American. The idea behind the insurrection, and behind the Big Lie that inspired it—the idea that Biden stole the presidential victory from former president Donald Trump—was that a Democratic victory could not be legitimate. Indeed, in the letter censuring Cheney and Kinzinger, the RNC charges that “[t]he Biden Administration and Democrats in Congress have embarked on a systematic effort to replace liberty with socialism.” In this framing, any attempt to overturn such an “illegitimate” election would be an act of patriotism.

It would be “legitimate political discourse.”

But overturning elections on the claim that the usurper must defend a nation’s legitimate government is so much a part of authoritarian coups that it is almost a cliché.

Conservative / Libertarian Drive to Civil War

Oklahoma bill would fine teachers $10k for teaching anything that contradicts religion 

[Independent, via Naked Capitalism 2-5-2022]

Ray Dalio: America ‘On Classic Path To Civil War’ 

[Heisenberg Report, via Naked Capitalism 2-4-2022]

From Ray Dalio (full piece here):

What is obvious from looking at many cycles of rises and declines of different historical cases is that the combination of…

  1. financial problems due to not having enough money that lead to large deficits, high taxes, a lot of money printing, and high inflation, and…
  2. large wealth and values gaps in which people are more willing to fight for what they want than to compromise…

… leads to some sort of fighting for control (rather than compromising according to the rules) which is a “civil war,”

All-American Hell Is Breaking Out in Canada 

Charles Pierce [Esquire, via Naked Capitalism 2-4-2022]

As Workers Resist, the Left Recoils 

[Wrong Kind of Green, via Naked Capitalism 2-4-2022]




“A Good Day w/Special Guest Matt Stoller” (podcast) [West Wing Thing, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 2-1-2022] • A comprehensive ramble throught current politics from liberal Democrats and leftward, including among other topics r/antiwork. Stoller: “It definitely feels like it all has to collapse.” Goes for everything, the hosts agree. Well worth a listen.

“The Marxist Who Antagonizes Liberals and the Left” [Benjamin Wallace-Wells, The New Yorker, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 2-1-2022] On Reed’s forthcoming book, The South: “In this slim book, one line in particular read to me like a manifesto: “A danger,” Reed writes, “is that, when reckoning with the past becomes too much like allegory, its nuances and contingencies can disappear. Then history can become either a narrative of inevitable progressive unfolding to the present or, worse, a tendentious assertion that nothing has ever changed.” I asked Reed what he had in mind. He said, “This won’t come as a surprise but one thing that was on my mind was the 1619 Project. I mean that ‘nothing has changed’ line is one I have found bemusing and exasperating.” That project, he went on, wiped away any historical specificity, so that racism operated as an unchanging force. “And so you get to say that the murder of Trayvon Martin or of George Floyd is the same as Emmett Till or of the slave patrols.” Reed told me, “I don’t like the frame of the declining significance of race narrative—I didn’t like it in the nineteen-seventies and I don’t like it now, right? But racism is less and less capable of explaining manifest inequalities between Blacks and whites.” Liberals, he said, wanted it both ways. “It’s a common refrain: ‘I know race is a social construction, but—’ ” Reed said. “Well, there’s no ‘but.’ It’s either a unicorn or it’s not a fucking unicorn.’” • Reasonably fair-minded, especially given the venue.

“Tribalism Is Human Nature” (PDF) [Association of Psychological Science, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 2-1-2022] The Abstract: “Humans evolved in the context of intense intergroup competition, and groups comprised of loyal members more often succeeded than groups comprised of nonloyal members. Therefore, selective pressures have sculpted human minds to be tribal, and group loyalty and concomitant cognitive biases likely exist in all groups. Modern politics is one of the most salient forms of modern coalitional conflict and elicits substantial cognitive biases. The common evolutionary history of liberals and conservatives gives little reason to expect protribe biases to be higher on one side of the political spectrum than the other. This evolutionarily plausible null hypothesis has been supported by recent research. In a recent meta-analysis, liberals and conservatives showed similar levels of partisan bias, and several protribe cognitive tendencies often ascribed to conservatives (e.g., intolerance toward dissimilar other people) were found in similar degrees in liberals. We conclude that tribal bias is a natural and nearly ineradicable feature of human cognition and that no group—not even one’s own—is immune.” • From 2019. What do readers think?


Open Thread


On the Canadian Trucker Occupations


  1. VietnamVet

    The first thing I read today is “White House says Russia will invade Ukraine tomorrow”. I am isolated in a suburban Bizarro World.

    This Week-end Wrap makes it clear that the Western Empire is run by a cult that believes that only money has value. Society, workers, health, and education have no value except to be exploited. The rich get richer. Good old fashion propaganda plus divide and conquer corporate rule got the West into the current catastrophe. The Atlantic article is a prime example of Big-Tech’s projection of themselves. It would be more accurate if it was titled “Global Oligarchs Brought Human Sacrifice to America”.

    It is shocking to see Canada take the lead in a worker’s revolt. This is the horseshoe effect – there is only one elephant in the room, but no one sees it in its entirety. The reality is that the coronavirus vaccine mandates do not work with non-sterilizing mRNA gene therapies. It is not left or right. It is the truth.

    The drive to make more money by injecting as many people as possible sidelined public health measures, ignored non-pharmaceutical interventions, and halted off-patent treatments. Almost a million Americans lives ended early intentionally.

  2. different clue

    As many things as Tony Wikrent is already reading to select among for putting in this weekly report, among other things; I don’t know if he would even have time to steadilly read yet one more source.

    So perhaps some of us here could read one more source. I think Ran Prieur’s blog at
    might be a good thing for some of us here to read and track and see if he writes something which might be relevant to this weekly report and its threads.

    For example, Ran Prieur’s very latest and most recent blog post starts with being about having read The Dawn Of Everything and his thoughts about it. And then he says this about money . . .
    ” It’s often said that money is the root of all evil, and then someone always points out that the actual quote is “Love of money is the root of all evil.” Ironically, the motivation for making that argument, for defending money as not intrinsically harmful, is love of money.

    Money is totally intrinsically harmful. Whether or not you love it, money strips the meaning from physical items, from blocks of time, from human activities, and replaces those many diverse meanings with copies of the same meaning: this is a token which can be used to force other people to do shit. ”

    Any survival-shit a person or people can do without money creates just that much protection against the power of wielders of money-as-weapon or extortion-lever or torture-device to make those people do shit for the wielder-of-money. Perhaps we should think about the difference between the Free UnMarket CounterEconomy and the Forced Market Moneyconomy. And also the difference between the Free UnMoney Bio-physiconomy as against the Forced Money Hamster Wheel Economy.

    In an impure world, no one will achieve purity though all are free to try. Those who are willing to settle for the impure result which an impure world will force upon them might think about how much of their life’s activity they can move from one “economy” to the other.

    The food you can grow equals the money you don’t need to make for the food you don’t need to buy because you can grow it. There is a whole gradient between 0 % and 100% of growing all one’s own food. A hundred people each growing 2% of their own food gets more food people-grown outside the Moneyconomy than one person growing 100% of his own food and the other 99 people growing zero food whatsoever.

  3. Trinity

    “We conclude that tribal bias is a natural and nearly ineradicable feature of human cognition and that no group—not even one’s own—is immune.”

    “From 2019. What do readers think?”

    Here’s what I think: Bull excrement. Seems like just another excuse for any group to do what they really, really want to do.

    Not all tribes compete against each other all the time, forever. Depends on the tribe, the circumstances, the context, and probably much more. Such a blanket statement is ridiculous.

    “Because coalitional coordination and commitment were crucial to group success, tribes punished and ostracized defectors and rewarded loyal members with status and resources (as they continue to do today). Thus, displays of loyalty and commitment to other members of the tribe also enhanced individual-level fitness (by increas- ing status and resources and minimizing risks of ostra- cism).”

    This perfectly describes my narcissistic family. And Soviet Russia. And present US. If you don’t speak the “party” line (mommy is a perfect mother!) then face both familial ostracism and her never ending wrath. As the other George (Carlin) would say, there’s only one tribe, and you ain’t in it.

    The gaslighting was the worst part, when I was younger I couldn’t trust my own eyes and ears. Now I live in a country that gaslights the populace systematically.

    “War is Peace,” “Slavery is Freedom”, “COVID is Mild”, “Vaccines Prevent”, etc. (to borrow/paraphrase from G. Orwell).

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